[NFBWATlk] Online Accessibility Act - Washington Civil & Disability Advocate News - November 2020

Nightingale, Noel Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov
Tue Nov 24 17:36:18 UTC 2020

Online Accessibility Act
By Sierra Paola
Washington Civil & Disability Advocate News
November 2020
Disability rights advocates must be wary of proposed changes to existing disability rights legal protections, as often these amendments are thinly vailed attempts by lobbyists to strip people with disabilities of their rights under the law and conferred to them by courts. The Online Accessibility Act H.R. 8478 is no exception. This bill, which seems on its surface to even be adding rights for individuals with disabilities in regard to online accessibility, actually makes it much for difficult for private plaintiffs to assert their rights and bring actions for online inaccessibility in court.  The Online Accessibility Act adopts the doctrine of "exhaustion of administrative remedies" which means that no individual may bring a claim for violation of the statute in court until they have complied with all the agency reporting requirements and processes. This bill would require people with disabilities who have a complaint regarding online accessibility to first give notice to the owner of the website or application and then be forced to wait an additional 90 days file a complaint with the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice then gets 90 days to file the complaint with the Attorney General, who in turn receives 180 days to investigate. Only after the completion of the Attorney General's investigation may the individual file a complaint in court. In all, a person with a disability would have to wait up to 360 days from the moment they face discrimination online until they could file suit in court. Administrative remedy requirements like this have chilling effects on private civil rights enforcement and allows the inaccessibility and discrimination to continue for nearly a year longer than if the individual could file their complaint in court from the outset as they currently can.  Additionally, most federal circuit courts have found that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) already requires web accessibility. This bill would only apply to a very small subsection of technology. For example, it does not provide a cause of action against inaccessible workplace software, kiosks, websites and applications used by employees in their jobs. Because this law is so narrow it leaves many current and future technological advancements immune from accessibility requirements under the ADA.  In summary, this bill is not needed and would only serve to impair the right to accessible technology that is essential to our modern lives. If you want to preserve the rights of all individuals to access the internet and other technologies regardless of disability, we urge you to write to your Representative in Congress and tell them why they should not support H.R. 8478.

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